Whether you’re planning for the future or you’re literally sitting and waiting to be called into the interview room, you might be wondering how to ask for flexible working hours during an interview for your next job.
Although hybrid work models are becoming widespread, you can’t take it for granted that every company will offer flexible working to new employees. So, you’re right in thinking that you will need to plan for this request to ensure that this new role fits your post-pandemic life.
Whatever you do, don’t try to wing the conversation of flexible working. It’s a topic that needs preparation and planning if you want to negotiate the best terms for you.
Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you; if you’re wondering how to negotiate flexible working in an interview, read on.
Do Your Research
Before you even think about bringing up the topic during the hiring process, the first thing you will want to do is consider whether you even want a hybrid work schedule. If flexible working isn’t high up on your list of priorities when considering a new job, you might want to not bring it up and instead choose to focus on your personal non-negotiables, like a higher salary or health benefits.
However, if flexible working is a must-have for you, then you need to do your research. Make sure the company has a flexible work policy, imagine getting offered the job and only then finding out that they don’t entertain any hybrid work models!
Approach your research with a multi-pronged attack:
- Take a look at their website, do they promote any flexible work arrangements?
- Read multiple job descriptions from the company, do they outline flexible work as a key benefit?
- If you’re working with a recruiter, ask them what they know of the company.
- Do they require you to live within a certain radius of the company’s headquarters?
- Google recent news articles of the company.
- Talk to current employees, what have their experiences been like?
- Check out Glassdoor or Reddit for honest opinions of past and present employees!
Is it OK to ask about flexible hours in an interview?
Yes, it’s fine to ask about flexible hours during the interview as long as you go about it in the right way. However, it hasn’t always been this way! In the past, unless the company had a well-known reputation for flexible working, it was risky to bring up the topic during the interview process.
Recruiters could have interpreted a flexible working request as a sign that the prospective employee was not going to be as ‘productive’ or ‘committed’ to the organisation. There was a prominent stigma attached to flexible working, primarily that it led to a drop in work being done.
Luckily, thanks to the shifting priorities of the workforce, flexible working is a must.
Nine out of ten millennials would like a flexible working week and almost four out of five remote workers with inflexible schedules want to quit! Companies that plan on winning and retaining the best talent have had no choice but to embrace flexible working, making it a fair topic to bring up in an interview.
How To Ask For Flexible Working During The Interview
Once the first stage of the interview is over, the employer will usually ask you if you have any questions regarding the company or role. This is your chance!
First, keep a friendly demeanour and then, rather than listing your demands from the role, you should start by asking open-ended questions. These could be ‘What is the company’s policy on flexible work’ or ‘How has the company changed its approach to hybrid working post-pandemic?’
During the interview, you just want to get a feel for their views on flexible working so you can see if you’re a good fit for the company. What you don’t want to do is ask firm, yes or no questions that could you remove you from the interview process.
If they are responsive to your initial inquiries, follow up with further questions. These could include questions about company culture or work-life balance. Try and test the waters to get a good gage of their attitudes to flexible working.
Confirming Flexible Working Arrangements
If you’ve made it to the second or third interview round, and you’re sure the company is open to flexible working, then now is the time to tailor your request and talk specifics.
For example, if you might have certain childcare schedules that need to be worked around or perhaps there are days you need to work from home, then make it known. Would a compressed hours model work better for you? Give the exact schedule with days and times you need the company to be flexible.
Negotiating Flexible Work Post-Interview
For whatever reason, even if you decide not to ask about flexible working at the interview, then all is not lost.
You can always wait until you’ve been offered the role. This way you could leverage flexible working as part of your negotiations to get the best possible benefits!
Another option is to wait until you’ve been offered the job. By doing so, you’ll be able to treat your flexible working request as a natural part of the negotiation process.
If you’ve already been offered the role, then obviously the company wants you, making it easier to get what you want when it comes to flexible working.
There is a chance that the company won’t be completely open, and if that is the case then you can use facts and figures to back up your argument. You can also bring up past jobs where you have worked flexibly, using them as case studies of successful flexible working.
If your potential new manager is still hesitant, ask them openly what their reservations are and see if you can come to a solution together. There are plenty of benefits to flexible working for businesses, so you should be able to get them on board if you can show them the light!
Confirm Your Flexible Working Arrangements
Once you’ve successfully negotiated flexible working hours that you’re happy with, make sure you have your arrangement written into your contract before you sign.
This way, you have concrete facts to support you in case you ever come up against a manager who has a less flexible approach to flexible working.
Finally, if you’ve already started a new job and found out too late that they don’t offer flexible working, don’t fret.
In the UK, all employees have the legal right to ask for flexible working after 26 weeks of working for a company. If you find your request for flexible working gets denied, then we have written a guide on what to do next, read here.
The world has changed a lot in the past few years and you should find that most organisations are enjoying the benefits that hybrid work brings to employers as well as employees. Admittedly, you might still find a few companies that aren’t keen on the flexible work model, however, that makes it all the more important to ask during the interview process. Saving you time and effort from pursuing a role that doesn't work for you.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.